Archive for the 'Bush' Category


If you read one piece…

…about Bush’s horrendous HHS ruling, read Amanda at Pandagon. She nails it. Dirty girl!!

(h/t Astraea)


Bush by the numbers

I received this via e-mail this morning from the progressive NYC think-tank Drum Major Institute.  It’s reprinted in its chilling entirety.

The 2008 DMI Injustice Index: The Bush Legacy

Opening weekend box office gross of Oliver Stone’s Bush biopic “W”: $10.6 million

Opening weekend box office gross of Michael Moore’s 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 911, which intensely criticized the Bush Administration: $23.9 million

Number of days during his presidency that Bush spent on vacation at either Camp David or his Texas ranch, as of August 2008 (including partial days off): 916

Total number of years in Bush’s presidency, if these vacation days are subtracted: 5.5

Proportion of U.S. workers who have no paid vacations or holidays at work: 1 in 4

Date on which President Bush received a presidential daily briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” while in the midst of a month-long vacation: 8/6/2001

Date on which a FEMA report warned that Hurricane Katrina could “could greatly overtop levees and protective systems” in New Orleans, displacing more than a million residents, a warning which came when the President was again on a month-long vacation: 8/27/2005

Date of a second warning, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, that Katrina would “likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching”: 8/29/2008

Date that President Bush told ABC “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”: 9/1/2005

Date on which George W. Bush announced “I believe we’re overextended… if we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world and nation building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road”: 10/3/2000

Date on which the United Nation’s chief weapons inspector, Han Blix, informed the U.N. Security Council that he had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, although inspection and monitoring efforts would continue: 3/7/2003

Date that United States invaded Iraq: 3/19/2003

Cost of the Iraq War through 2008: $567 billion

Approximate cost of the privately funded George W. Bush Presidential Library, whose manager insists it will discuss the war “upfront”: $250 million

Year the library is set to open: 2014

Year by which the No Child Left Behind law mandates that all students nationwide must achieve grade-level proficiency in reading and math: 2016

Number of societies on earth that has ever succeeded in achieving universal student proficiency, according to testing expert Robert Linn: 0

Amount by which No Child Left Behind has been underfunded since its inception, according to Senator Tom Harkin: $70.9 billion

Proportion of U.S. public schools that are failing to meet No Child Left Behind standards as of October 2008: 2 out of 5

Percentage increase in overall school performance when previously uninsured children were enrolled in public health coverage, according to a California study: 24%

Change in the number of children with health coverage during President Bush’s tenure: -78,000

Percentage of President Bush’s total vetoes that blocked expansion of children’s health insurance: 20%

Number of times he cited the superiority of private insurance programs in his message explaining the first veto to Congress: 5

Year when President Bush made privatizing Social Security the centerpiece of his State of the Union Address, asserting that “your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver.”: 2005

Number of points the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped on September 29, 2008: 778

Overall change in stock market wealth between Oct. 2007 and Oct. 2008: -$8.4 trillion

Date President Bush signed legislation phasing out the federal estate tax: 6/7/2001

Increase in the number of U.S. millionaires since that year: 928,000

Increase in the number of Americans living in poverty since that year: 4.4 million

Cost of all Bush’s tax cuts from 2001 to 2007: $1.3 trillion

Date President Bush announced that his tax cuts would “encourage more investment” and “strengthen the foundation of our economy so that every American who wants to work will be able to find a job.': 5/28/2003

Rank of the business cycle that included these tax cuts compared to all business cycles since 1949 in terms of employment growth: last

Rank in terms of investment: last

Change in the real median income of non-retiree households since 2000: -$2,010

Estimated home equity lost by American families with the bursting of the housing bubble: $4 trillion

Year that subsidiaries of the U.S. Treasury Department struck down laws in Georgia and New Jersey that were intended to rein in predatory lending and prevent foreclosures within those states: 2003

Year in which the Federal Reserve issued its own rules to rein in predatory lending and prevent foreclosures: 2008

Number of home foreclosure filings in the first three quarters of 2008: 2.2 million

Number of surrounding homes likely to suffer price declines as a result of this number of foreclosures according to the Center for Responsible Lending : 40.6 million

Date on which President Bush appeared on the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal,” joking that he was “thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings': 4/21/08

Percentage difference in viewership of the episode with the Bush cameo, compared to the show’s season average: -27%

Approximate proportion of Americans who approved of President’s Bush handling of the Presidency in October, 2008: 1 in 5

Proportion of American adults currently incarcerated in a prison or jail: 1 in 100

Date on which President Bush commuted the prison sentence of I. Lewis Libby, the Vice President’s former Chief of Staff, who was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice: 7/2/2007

Percentage change in the number of full time staff monitoring hazardous goods at the Consumer Product Safety Commission during Bush’s tenure: -16%

Percentage change in the number of federal investigators who monitor employers’ compliance with minimum wage, overtime, and child labor laws during Bush’s tenure: -23%

Percentage of Bush Supreme Court appointees who ruled that factory worker Lilly Ledbetter would get no recompense from her employer despite proving 20 years of pay discrimination: 100%

Number of judges Bush appointed to the Supreme Court as president: 2

Number of Supreme Court Justices who ruled to stop the Florida recount in Bush v. Gore, effectively handing the 2000 election to George W. Bush: 5

Date on which Vice President Dick Cheney announced “history will be the judge – and history, I believe, will say, job well done.” 10/3/2008

To read more from DMI’s 2008 Year In Review, click here.


A single mistake

That’s how Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz assigns culpability for our current economic meltdown, as encapsulated in a single, flawed belief:

that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal.

If you’re like me, you haven’t been keeping up with most economic analysis of our current crisis because it bores / confuses / depresses you.  But this Vanity Fair piece by Stiglitz clearly explains 5 major decisions since the Reagan era that got us to today.   Though I summarize them very briefly here, I highly recommend the whole article.

Continue reading ‘A single mistake’


hell no, hell yes

Thank goodness someone said it: Caroline Kennedy – the audacity of entitlement?

On the flip side, this is a fabulous appointment.  Here’s hoping we can rectify some of the massive wrongs by the Bush Administration at the V.A.  The treatment of Vets in our country, preceeding Bush but exacerbated by him (like every other inequality) is reprehensible.  The conditions at Walter Reed ranked right up there with life in FEMA trailers in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast.


The Emergency Room

The New York Times reports that intakes at Broward County, FL one-stop career centers are up 60% from one year ago, with people queuing up for one-third fewer jobs. 40% more families are now on public assistance.

Welcome to the “emergency rooms” of The Bush Economy, where desperate neighbors meet overwhelmed service providers, and anxieties about putting food on the table and gifts under the Christmas tree drown out optimism over Obama’s recent victory.

One-stops are the decade-old delivery system for numerous federal employment and public assistance programs for unemployed and low-income individuals. Since 2000, Bush has slashed one-stop funding by 14%, leaving mainly black and immigrant Americans with fewer services in a time of rapidly rising need.

Attorney-blogger TChris proposes that the Obama Administration repair this frayed social safety net as part of its planned infrastructure investment.  I agree.   I’d like to see Obama restore funding to one-stops, further extend unemployment benefits, increase funding and eligibility for food stamps and heating assistance, expand S-CHIP coverage for low-income kids, and expand the Earned Income Tax Credit so low-wage workers have more money in their pockets this spring. And I haven’t even gotten to the foreclosure and state budget crises in this holiday wish list!

The percentage of individuals living in poverty could grow by 25% during the first Obama Administration.  (Stimulus be damned!)  Yet, no doubt President “the E/R = universal healthcare” Bush is giving thanks for his smoothly functioning economy this week. I’m grateful he’s finally on his way out, though our work remains – including this Thanksgiving.


Boys Club

If Sen. Clinton leaves the Senate to become Secretary of State, she leaves behind 16 fellow women Senators (among 82 men) and joins 25 women foreign ministers around the world (5 of whom also came to the post this year).  Assuming the 180 or so country governments worldwide all have this position, Clinton leaves one boys club for another.

Forgive me for not being totally jazzed about this development…yet.

Like many former Clinton supporters, I was enjoying Clinton’s late- and post-primary aggressiveness on reproductive rights and economic justice.  I fancied her hanging out in the Senate alongside Sen. Murray and other allies, fighting the good fight for women, children, families, the uninsured and those at risk for losing their homes and jobs.  Count me in as one of many indulging in the idea that she’d be the next “liberal lion” of the Senate.

Turns out, Uncle Teddy isn’t quite ready to give up the title just yet, and she lacks the seniority (star power just doesn’t cut it, unless you’re Obama) to really rise to the occasion anyway.  Bummer.

As I ponder the idea of Clinton in the SoS role, I picture her, of course, in pantsuits or culturally-appropriate clothing, but that’s about it for the displays of womanhood.  The rest of the image is Clinton negotiating with men, or shaking the hands of men, or posing for photo ops with men, to eventually take back proposals hashed out with men to our President Obama.  Surrounded by men.  Men men men men men men men men.  (Try singing it.)

Believe me, I realize Clinton and her sixteen women colleagues weren’t a monolith or a voting bloc, nor do I expect them to be strictly due to their gender.  Duh.  I also know that the US is no role model in terms of gender parity in politics, and that our SoS will conduct business in countries with far more impressive women’s representation than ours.  It’s just…I was just getting used to Clinton in her new role as the prominent-elected-leader-with-nothing-to-lose-by-being-an-outspoken-powerhouse-for-women’s-rights-and-economic-security Senator from NY.  Or some such vision.  (YMMV.)  I liked it.

But, in our new post-partisan domestic reality, it strikes me that Clinton needs a stronger foil than she’d find in Obama – what could be the equivalent of her partisan rancor towards Bush now?  It’s hard for me to see a similar soapbox for Clinton in an Obama Administration, given how so many of her prominent senior male colleagues rallied around Obama (yes, Kennedy and Kerry, I’m talking to you).  There’s no real space in the Obama-Biden 111th Congress for her to step out of line, if you will; I have no idea what the rules are for Dem attack dogs in the face of a small but hostile GOP minority, Rahmbo notwithstanding.

Despite her and Obama’s mutual calls for renewed diplomacy and engagement with the world, I have a hard time visualizing her not negotiating arms treaties (or withdrawals) or various strategies of aggression or other militiarized concerns.  (Yes, foreign policy is not my area.)  It will take time for me to wrap my head around her new job and its major issue areas and the new cohort of dudes she’ll be running in.  But I do have faith that given her well-regarded work as a First Lady, her selection as SoS indicates women’s, children’s, and human development will be priorities in an Obama Administration.  Which is a potential change in scope and focus that really excites me.

And as an added bonus for Sen. Clinton and President-Elect Obama, should she become SoS, she’s got that helpful wife spouse to support our diplomatic efforts via her his pet projects that showcase the plight of special populations around the world.  Every elected leader should be so lucky!



There’s been a  lot happening on and off the tubes in the last couple days: if you haven’t sent some love Melissa McEwan’s way, please do so.  If you are cranky from Thanksgiving and holiday plans, I can sympathize.  If you are bridled by Obama’s alleged sudden appreciation for Sen. Clinton’s foreign policy experience built on “tea” parties, join the club.

I’ve been pretty reflective this week, imagining what it’d be like to have a role in the Obama Administration and whether it’d be a good fit.  A colleague of mine is on the transition team, and the Administration’s job application sits in my inbox.  But, I’m cowed and more than a little aghast at the information required.  The disclosure of closet skeletons (and outraged blog screeds) is one thing; more importantly, I can’t get past the language about whether or not my information would “be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the president-elect.”  (I realize this is s.o.p. for vetting potential Administration staff, but this election is really my first as a fully engaged adult.  It’s all enthralling, unsettling news to me.)

Without question, there are recorded and secret moments in my past that are totally mortifying.  So I think I can confidently assure President-Elect Obama that yes, I could be “a possible source of embarrassment.”  Who wouldn’t be?  The larger issue is what the transition team considers “embarrassing,” or a “conflict of interest,” or disqualifiers.  Our President-Elect tried coke, no prob after Bush, and worshipped with a preacher steeped in black liberation theology, which turned out to be not easily understood by and a major but not insurmountable problem for the bulk of the (white) American public.   Our Vice President-Elect has a plagarism scandal behind him, as well as the dubious position of being the guy who referred to his new African-American boss as “clean” and “articulate.”  No biggie?  Not now, it seems, but it certainly was at the time.

When I think about willingly filling out the job application, I wonder: a) who’s going to be reading this?  (Is it too much to want to know which lucky sap gets to read the tawdry yet mundane details of my life?) and b) short of criminal behavior, what is really considered too scandalous for the incoming Administration?  It’s likely not my Clinton support (right?), but I can see President-Elect Post-Partisan bristling at my blog references to the Bush Administration’s post-Katrina HUD as “public enemy #1.”  I don’t exactly mince words, nor play nice.  Diplomacy is a learned behavior for this Virgo. (I should probably also stop referencing the zodiac.)

And really, isn’t this one of the fault lines within the Democratic Party, the progressive-liberal blogosphere and in party versus movement politics in general, writ large as we argue with one another over how or whether to support Obama?  Does doing so require me to compromise my principles?  What are my principles?  What are my political beliefs versus my pragmatic politics?  Is incrementalism ok?  How can or should a progressive agenda be enacted?  Do I care about a particular political issue above all others?  Do I adhere to a general political philosophy that outweighs any particular issue or policy area?  Am I partisan?  What do I make of a politics of conciliation?  Questions like these are at the heart of political activism, movement building, and Party identification and support.

The job app in my inbox and the fallout over at Shakesville both leave me thinking deeply about my political values and where I see myself in the “inside-outside” game of governance and political advocacy.  I’m disinclined to apply, not wanting to find myself apologizing for my outraged passion over the GOP and Bush’s failure to do right by the Gulf Coast.  There’s also that pesky dissertation demanding my attention.  Can we talk in 2012?


Funding choices

One Obama-Biden campaign promise is to make government run more efficiently – by connecting disjointed programs, increasing transparency, and fully funding programs so they might actually deliver results.  This promise is nothing new, but I’m hoping the Obama’s team’s technological savvy and the Democratic legislative majority behind him translates into some real improvements.  That said, what’s the point in fully funding or linking questionable and bad programs and policies, such as No Child Left Behind or welfare-to-work initiatives?

I say this because the Bush Dept. of Education is pushing a much needed streamlined higher ed financial aid process that to me has one fundamental flaw: its calculation of aid based on the average cost of a two-year college.  They estimate that this would cover for the neediest students 100% of the cost of a community college, 60% of a four-year public college, and one-third of the cost of a four-year private institution.

Led by the Gates Foundation, and suggested in this financial aid change, there appears not only a growing emphasis on improving access to community colleges, but an increasing push to help students graduate from community colleges.  But how does this help us reduce our record socio-economic inequality, when the differential returns of a bachelor’s degree (or higher) versus a high school diploma has been the single largest cause of rising economic inequality since 1980? (see pp.7-9)

I am not sure what the wage returns are for an associate’s degree.  What I do know is that among the U.S. adult population, 70% have a high school diploma, 19% have a bachelor’s degree, 17% have some college education, 10% have a master’s or higher, and only 8.5% have an associate’s degree.  Well, you wonder, perhaps an associate’s degree is uncommon because students are transferring to four-year colleges from community colleges.  Maybe, but I’m not optimistic.

Continue reading ‘Funding choices’


Taking it all in

Like Ta-Nehisi, I process events and emotions slowly.  I’m particularly likely to hold it together when others are coming undone (whether in euphoria or despair), but I’ll always need a shoulder or ear much later.  In fact, by then, I’ll usually have internalized everyone else’s responses.

What I’m finding with Obama’s election is that my bitterness from Tuesday night is subsiding, and a contentment and curious, guarded optimism is emerging.  I’m working on letting go of my Democratic primary grudge, and I’m discovering that my skepticism and even dislike of Obama has freed me up to enjoy his transition more freely than those who seem to have rather exorbitant expectations of him in terms of shattering the political mold.  While I agree with NYC Weboy that Obama couldn’t close the deal in June, his success in the general election has all but reassured me that he knows what the hell he’s doing, and thus I also suspect he has a plan for governing.

I’ve been reading a lot of election coverage, trying to sort out what interests me now that the horserace is over, and also to see how quickly we rewrite history.  The narratives in the Newsweek quadrennial “secrets of the campaign” (!!!eleventy1!!11!!!!) report are predictable: Obama was flawless, Clinton was a mess (with an added twist: her husband made her run, she didn’t really want it), McCain was just being himself, misunderstood loner that he is.  What’s much more compelling is a sociologists’ debate via book reviews written last spring ($) about the 2008 election, movement vs. party politics, and the potential candidates who might lead us into the future.

What leapt out at me in Norval Glenn’s review of Todd Gitlin’s The Bulldozer and the Big Tent: Blind Republicans, Lame Democrats, and the Recovery of American Ideals, and Obama’s Audacity of Hope is how Obama appears to have united the Democratic Party by

[emphasizing] a few key goals—including universal health care, energy conservation, environmental sustainability…while being willing to jettison other progressive goals…for the sake of enlarging the big tent. [Obama does] not jettison a woman’s right to choose abortion but [does] not demonize pro-lifers…[he strives] to include proponents of opposing points of view…”

Glenn points out the shelf life on all this “unity” may be brief.  Agreed.  Nonetheless, as someone who is both politically radical in her worldviews and fairly pragmatic in her daily work, I am really impressed with Obama’s success and am sanguine about the possibilities for liberal progress under an Obama Administration.  It helps that I don’t consider Obama a progressive…yet?

Because the other eye-opening experience for me in the ’08 election is sensing the opportunity to grapple with reconciling my progressive, hell radical, principles with the opportunities to advance a more liberal policy agenda in the U.S.  For the last 8 years, I have become much more politically aware and active, and yet have never had the pleasure (or disappointment – YMMV) of ever hopping up from my extremely defensive crouch.  That is, the Bush Administration and GOP-dominated Congress was so awful, so oppressive, so unequal, that it was my norm to accept funding for the Gulf Coast through Iraq War supplemental bills.  What choice did I, a progressive and social justice advocate have in trying to work with the Bush Administration, if I wanted resources and power for my communities, constituents, clients, etc.?

I don’t expect, nor do I hope to face, such an extreme “choice” under Obama.  But what follows is that I, as an activist and citizen, will also be expected to make reasonable, thoughtful compromises.  This is an extremely abstract principle, obviously.  Clearly, realities such as mortgages, childrearing, gender, and core values structure our lives and our ability to agitate against or benefit from government policies.  That said, what appeals to me about the Obama Administration is my relatively newfound sense of the possibility for proactive involvement in government.  My goodness, I sound like I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid! But honestly, this really stems from the profound relief I felt on Tuesday night as the results poured in.  The era of extremes is over.

As a scholar I’m interested in conflict and contradictions in politics and political advocacy.  Why do we think our mixed-income housing policies benefit “communities” when they often harm and displace existing low-income residents?  Etc.  In Obama’s win, there are myriad contradictions and points of conflict that paint a much more complex and realistic picture of the world we live in: the fallout over Prop 8 in CA, the mixed emotions of Muslim voters over Obama’s victory, voter “suppression” due to severe poverty and joblessness, and the presence of Bush appointees and less savory Clintonistas in the Administration.  Sociologist Fred Block attributes such outcomes to Obama’s own contradictory message:

…Obama has crafted his central message to appeal to a much broader audience. His surprising campaign for the Democratic nomination has been clever in combining two basically incompatible political appeals. The first is his use of the rhetoric of a community organizer who invites his listeners to stop sitting around, get active, and build a movement that will get him elected and make real change possible in society. This language of extra-parliamentary mobilization insists that the established political system is weighted in favor of existing elites and that only continuing mobilization can win real reforms. The second is a classical “good government” critique of partisan bickering and “business as usual” in Washington. The proposed solution is to move beyond partisanship and work with those whom we disagree to hammer out new policies. The incompatibility, of course, is that one approach increases polarization while the other seeks to diminish it…When he has been most effective, Obama has used this rhetoric to win votes from both the most progressive and the most conservative wings of the Democratic Party.

Through most of the campaign, my progressive rigidity ruled the day.  I generally disliked Obama’s politics of conciliation, and liked Clinton specifically because she was partisan and strident.  But with Obama’s victory, I’m entering a period of reconsideration – I’m trying on his politics of compromise, if you will.  Because why not?  There might be a viable fit here.  Isn’t this what the transition is for?

If not, I’ve always been a bulimic shopper, and I’ll never outgrow my cloak of relentless outrage. (Available in all sizes!!!).


What Now? A Call to Service

One of the best proposals of the Obama-Biden Administration is to create incentives and programs that expand voluntary public service and strengthen the non-profit and civil sectors.  My main quibbles are that bringing private sector financing to non-profits leaves the latter beholden to private sector demands and models, even when they don’t necessarily fit; and that public service should be mandatory for able-bodied residents and citizens.  But hey, they’re off to a great start.  My partner is a VISTA alum and I credit the Army as one key force in getting my dad up and out of poverty.  We like what we see from Obama-Biden.

This call to service is imperative after the disastrous Bush years.  It’s also feasible.  As one of the major organizers in the Obama campaign – the legendary Mashall Ganz – put it: a primary legacy of the campaign is a generation of mostly 20-somethings who now possess basic political organizing skills.  This is tremendous, and we need to channel this skill and commitment into sustained community activism now.

I’ve been debating with an MIT planning friend about Ganz’s emphasis on youth, organizing and their relationship to the Obama campaign.  Ganz was drawn to Obama’s campaign because it was “values-based” versus “issues-based,” including the candidate’s personal narrative.  This was one of the things I didn’t like about Obama, and I’m grappling with how Ganz proposes we now re-direct organizing capacity that was centered around a personal value narrative towards specific social problems in the U.S.  As he put it, it is “not clear” to him how Obama plans to govern.  That he nonetheless worked energetically to get this man into office slightly boggles my mind.

In a recent e-mail to said friend I wrote:

My concern…is the “what now” – i.e., how do we shift people’s foci from Obama to “issues.” I didn’t get from Ganz how that happens, given the organizing for BO was “values-based,” with the strategic “issue” being to get him elected.

There’s a real difference b/w electoral politics and advocacy re: equity or issues (e.g., environment, etc.). I’m curious about what kind of awareness exists among this young generation to take their apparent new found skills and keep fighting the good right re: poverty, green development, what have you. It’s not at all clear to me that this shift will happen…the Obama campaign both created AND extracted organizing capacity – from communities and issues where it is truly needed.

One of the things I like most about Obama is his call for service to the country. I am cautiously optimistic that he will continue to lead this generation of young people to serve either through Americorps, the military, or just by being more active citizens (which, from what I understand, that generation already is). But I also hear that young people today are more compliant and comfortable with the system, more of the “inside” gamers, if you will. So where does the pushback come from for Obama within our camp (rather than from the 46% who voted for McCain)?”

I’m reading through Obama’s urban policy proposals and his “Women” page at  I’ll spare you the critiques now during the Friday afternoon lull.  But as I go through them I’m thinking, how do we connect these young Obama upstarts to the perennial problem of poverty, rising social immobility, a chronic lack of affordable housing, and on-going oppression of the poor, especially women, people of color and the urban poor?  These are my issues, and I’d love a little army of Obama campaign alum to fight for economic justice and equitable development.  Remind me to send the transition team a note on this.

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